Skip to main content

HBR 100th anniversary: shaping business thinking over the decades

Last year marked the 100th anniversary since the foundation of the Harvard Business Review by Harvard Business School in 1922, an important milestone that was celebrated with multiple events in London, Vienna, and New York City over a period of months. CMCE Director, Nick Bush, and the editor of this newsletter had the opportunity to attend the celebratory event that took place at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

The audience was treated to a thought-provoking and insightful panel discussion that saw Ania Wieckowski, Executive Editor, Harvard Business Review and Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief, HBR, and Publisher, HBR Press in conversation with Linda Hill, Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Executive Fellow for Executive Education, Harvard Business School, Laura Morgan Roberts, Associate Professor, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Heidi K. Gardner, Distinguished Fellow, Harvard Law School.

The discussion focused on the role that HBR played in shaping the business thinking over the decades and how its content has changed to reflect the evolution of the surrounding business environment, tackling issues across different areas of expertise including strategy, innovation, marketing, customer experience, and the human dimensions of leadership and management. The panellists also shared their views on what the future holds for leadership and management and mentioned a few of the articles that they considered most impactful.

Among the biggest challenges that future leaders will have to face, the panel mentioned an increasing interconnectedness and complexity, high levels of innovation, a changing psychological contract, the creation of a leaders’ pipeline and a suitable selection approach. They also discussed how the HBR has evolved by shifting away from its focus on seeing CEOs as their main audience and widening their readership; the profile of its contributors has also changed to be representative of diverse thinking and backgrounds. On the other hand, the focus for the future should move away from the Western world and towards cutting-edge and emerging markets.

Over the years the publication has evolved to adapt to the changing values of the business environment and the wider society. One of the best quotes of the night was about an article published in 1956 and titled “Successful Wives of Successful Executives,” by W. Lloyd Warner and James C. Abegglen, a piece that suggested how wives could support the development of their husbands’ careers. The authors said that “it is the task of the wife to cooperate in working toward the goals set by her husband. This means accepting - or perhaps even encouraging - the business trips, the long hours at the office, and the household moves dictated by his business career.” As far as the husbands’ role was concerned, they wrote that they “may meet someone who conforms more closely to the new social standards he has acquired while moving socially upward; he may discard his wife either by taking a new wife or by concentrating all his attention on his business.” The panel acknowledged that things had moved on significantly since then, but that there was still some way to go.

The evening was a great opportunity to celebrate the legacy of a publication that has played a significant role in sharing knowledge and encouraging the evolution of thinking and leadership. For us it was a pleasure to be part of this celebration and found it inspiring to see how HBR has stayed relevant and continues to bridge the gap between areas of expertise and professionals from different backgrounds. 

Friday 3rd March 2023
HBR 100th anniversary discussion panel